Who Became the First Indian Woman to Score a Hat-trick in Hockey in Olympic History

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The first Indian woman to score a hat-trick in Olympic History is none other than Miss Vandana Katariya. Vandana is an exemplary of a strong woman coming forward and achieving her dreams. She has bagged several awards and received medals for her outstanding performance in the field of sports. Often Vandana felt like giving up and was bogged by petty thoughts of people, but she managed to bloom like a lotus and rise away from all the slur.

In this article, we will talk about Vandana Katariya, her early life, the Indian women’s hockey team and her performance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We will also be sharing her response to the negativity that society cast on her and the awards she bagged in her prolific career.  

Who is Vandana Katariya? 

Vandana Katariya is the first Indian woman hockey player to have scored a hat-trick in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. By scoring a hockey Olympics hat-trick the Indian women’s hockey team qualified for the Olympic quarter-finals. She secured three goals and her team scored 4-3 over South Africa during Pool A match. The fourth goal was secured by Neha Goyal. Vandana Kataria played as a forward in her team.

Previously in 1980, India’s hockey team made its debut in the Moscow Games and was ranked fourth among the six teams that participated. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, her team finished in fourth position and her hat-trick crafted history. She is excellent in speed and skill and has played 250 international matches. 

Although she is widely identified as the first Indian woman to score a hat-trick in the Olympics, Katariya received her initial recognition during the 2013 Women’s Hockey Junior World cup. In the tournament, she scored an outstanding five goals and was the third player to have done so. She made significant contribution that made Indian women’s hockey team win a bronze following the victory.

Vandana’s Background And Family Life 

Vandana was born to a Dalit family on 15 April 1992 and hails from the village Roshnabad that is situated in Uttarakhand. Her father Nahar Singh, who passed away three months before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a former wrestler and master technician in BHEL, Haridwar. Her older brother is Chandrashekhar Katariya. As a child, Vandana was interested in Kho kho and was introduced to hockey by her coach Krishna Kumar. Initially, Vandana Katariya started playing in the Railway Sports Promotion Board. She eventually secured her position in the Indian Junior Women’s team in 2006. Following this, she kept moving forward until she became a part of the Indian women’s hockey team.

Her parents, particularly her father, always encouraged her for the sport. It was her relatives and neighbours who undermined her dreams. Initially, there was a lack of sports equipment for which she used to practice her moves with tree branches taken as a hockey stick. Her shoes were shared with two of her siblings. Vandana Katariya paid her decisive victory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a homage to her demised father Nahar Singh whose funeral she couldn’t attend because of her camp training in Bangalore.

A Glimpse into the Indian Women’s Hockey Team 

The Indian women’s hockey team represents India in the international hockey and is also known as the Nabhvarna. It won gold medals at the the 2002 Commonwealth Games and also in the 1982 Asian games. Vandana Katariya along with his team got to the semi-finals in the Women’s Hockey Olympics but couldn’t bag any medals as they lost to Argentina and Great Britain. The recent most India women’s hockey squad team included twenty members who were contending for FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup. Some of the players are listed as follows;

Goalkeepers 

  • Savita 
  • Bichu Devi Kharibam 

Defenders 

  • Deep Grace Ekka 
  • Gurjit Kaur 
  • Nikki Pradhan 
  • Udita 

Midfielders 

  • Nisha 
  • Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam 
  • Monika 
  • Neha 
  • Jyoti 
  • Navjot Kaur 
  • Sonika 
  • Salima Tete 

Indian Women’s Hockey Team won by 3-1 against Japan and was placed in the ninth position. Savita, Navneet Kaur, Sonika and Neha performed exceptionally well and grabbed their first win by beating Canada in the Women’s Hockey World Cup.  

Katariya’s Gaming Session while she scored the Hat-trick in hockey 

  • The 2020 Olympic hockey match was an interesting one that led Vandana Katariya to score a hat-trick and qualify for the Olympic quarterfinals.
  • In the initial two minutes of the match, India’s women hockey team secured two penalty corners but drag flicker Gurjit Kaur’s execution was poor that remained the same till the tournament ended. Soon India started performing well and Vandana Kataria began leading the tournament. She tapped in from close range after Kaur’s great run from the right flank.
  • The India’s women hockey team maintained its performance and kept up with the pressure. They invaded the South African circle a couple of times but in vain. A few seconds after the first quarter, the dissipation of focus from the defense proved disadvantageous to India. South African player Tarryn Glasby drew level by deflecting in a long shot from Taryn Mallett. 
  • There were several opportune moments for India to secure a penalty corner but they missed out in the majority of such cases. In the beginning of the second quarter, Kataria was again leading in her performance. She deflected in Ekka’s flick from their team’s fourth penalty corner. 
  • In the second quarter, India women hockey team could have fared better with three more chances. India could seize the opportunity of two more penalty corners but it got wasted. Although Goyal tried open play, she was eventually saved by the South Africa team’s goalkeeper.
  • After the change of ends, Goyal deflected in a hit by Rani from the penalty corner and re-established the lead. South Africa team drew level and India’s women hockey players succumbed under pressure. This was the third time South Africa drew level through their player Marizen Marais’s strike. 
  • The final quarter started that seemed to be in South Africa’s favor where the team secured three penalty corners rapidly. However, the India women hockey team defense tried their best to quell the danger. In the 49th minute, Vandana deflected Gurjit Kaur’s flick from a different penalty corner.
  • Prior to that, she had secured two more goals in the 4th and 17th minute while Neha Goyal secured her only goal in the 32nd minute. Thus, with 3 goals Vandana Kataria became the first Indian woman to have made a hat-trick in the Olympics. In the final moments of the game Africa pressed hard but India women hockey team had already made history and seemed quite contented.
  • Before the game was over, the Indian women hockey team was able to refer a penalty corner decision given against them.

Kataria’s Family Subjected To Slurs After Her Defeat in the Semi-finals 

Vandana Kataria and her family have been subjected to casteism slurs and also faced harassment. Many high caste people objected to the presence of players of backward castes in the India’s women’s hockey team. They argumented that those players of backward castes are responsible for under performance in the Indian team. Following Kataria’s defeat in the semifinals of the Olympics, people were reported to have celebrated her failure and burst firecrackers outside her house. To all those people, Katariya has the most befitting response in her Twitter handle: 

“I’m a Dalit. Because the buddha’s enlightenment, Ambedkar’s immortality, Kanshiram’s mettle and the essence of humaneness runs through me”. She hashtagged it with “Dalit Lives Matter”. 

List of Prestigious Awards and Medals Received by Vandana Katariya 

Vandana Katariya was honored with the Padma Shri in 2022 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Ramnath Kovind because of her distinguished service in the field of sports. Prestigious awards like the Padma Vibhusan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri are announced on Republic Day and are conferred on ceremonial occasions around March or April every year. Vandana Katariya was one among the nine athletes and the only hockey player in the event to have claimed the prestigious award. 

Vandana was part of a gold medal championship at the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016 which was followed by another gold medal in Asia Cup in 2017. She was also part of Asian Games Bronze in 2014 and Asian Games Silver in 2018. Katariya also had won Bronze in Junior World Cup that took place in Monchengladbacch, Germany. She was the top-scorer in that tournament and had scored 5 goals in 4 games. She even received the Hockey India’s Player of the Year Award in 2014.

Final Thought! 

Vandana Kataria is a player from a small village with big dreams and certainly a lot of awards. Although she faced criticism for loving sport, she maintained her stand and let her actions speak for herself. Her hard work and achievements are enough to silence people who undermined her. Truly, her parents are to be credited for realizing her passion and letting her into the hockey team. She made her parents and Indian women’s hockey team proud through her achievements. Although her father couldn’t see her daughter scoring hat-trick at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, indeed he must be smiling from the heavens.

Hopefully this article has been able to narrate the story of one woman who led the Indians at Olympics to victory. Surely, Vandana Kataria has not only made her parents proud but every Indian on this earth.

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